Finding the perfect flat or dream house in a city requires patience and perseverance. Münster is no exception. The Municipal Housing Office is responsible for observing developments on the housing market. It provides citizens with information about rental prices and offers, promotes social residential projects and provides details of economic premises to let.
The local newspapers, the "Westfälische Nachrichten“ (http://www.wn.de/) and the “Münstersche Zeitung“ (http://www.muensterschezeitung.de/ advertise the biggest selection of flats and houses for rent and for sale. The real estate sections in the Saturday and Wednesday editions are particularly comprehensive. The newspapers’ housing advertisements are complemented by regional and national online accommodation portals.
The majority of flats and houses in Germany are sold or rented in a non-furnished condition. Fully- or partially-furnished flats are the exception. In Münster, furnished single rooms are usually offered in shared flats (WGs). As the name suggests, these are flats or houses shared by several tenants. Shared flats are an inexpensive accommodation option and extremely popular with students. Many rooms in shared flats are advertised in the free event magazine “na dann”, which appears every Wednesday.
The large number of students makes finding a suitable rented flat particularly difficult at the beginning of the winter semester in September and October. Estate agents help prospective tenants during their search for a flat. If successful, the estate agent charges commission. This commission is paid by the individual who hired the estate agent initially. By law, this amount may not exceed two months' rent plus VAT. The ancillary costs (heating, electricity, waste disposal etc.) are usually not taken into account in the calculation of the monthly rent - exceptions possible.
Offers and prices can differ greatly, depending on the flat's age, location and fittings. The rent index, which is reissued every two years, provides more precise information here. It can be checked online. A printed copy is also available at the Municipal Housing Office. The Municipal Housing office is always disposed to help assessing accommodation costs.
Tenants and buyers should on no account underestimate the additional costs charged for heating, electricity, waste disposal and possibly insurance. These ancillary costs have increased significantly in recent years as a result of increasing electricity prices, and are sometimes as high as a third of the basic rental price - and above. This is why the ancillary costs are now often referred to as the “second rent” in Germany.
Rental deposits or guarantee payments are both permitted and customary, and are independent of the rental commission charged by estate agents. The deposit may amount to up to three months’ rent, and is returned to the tenant upon departure, provided that he or she returns the flat to the landlord in a flawless condition.
Anyone buying a flat or house should remember that the purchase price is inflated by up to an additional ten per cent in taxes, charges, legal and notarial costs.
As is the case with the majority of cities and communities, Münster offers its citizens a number of inexpensive flats, so-called council flats. As this accommodation is subsidised with state funds, the rent is regulated by law and thus below market prices. Those wishing to apply for a council flat must be in possession of a certificate of eligibility for public housing (Wohnberechtigungsschein), which can be obtained from the Municipal Housing Office. In order to obtain a certificate of eligibility, citizens must prove that their earnings do not exceed a stipulated level. They must also fulfil other prerequisites. Foreign citizens also require a valid residence permit in order to apply for a council flat, for example.
It may take some time for the Municipal Housing Office to allocate applicants council flats. This is because an increasing number of people are dependent on flats of this nature, something which results in long waiting lists for certain sizes of flat.
The brochure entitled "Flat-hunting tips for students" is a useful source during the search for a suitable flat.
Low-income households may be entitled to housing benefit, i.e. financial support with rental payments. The Municipal Housing Office is also responsible for granting benefits of this kind.